Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Can Scalera Serve Two Masters?

Last night, it was standing room only at City Hall for the informal Common Council meeting at which Council president Don Moore had agreed to allow a public discussion of the proposed Galvan Quarters at State and Seventh streets. Tom Casey has the story in today's Register-Star: "Anger over homeless shelter plan." 

A major theme of the comments last night was that homeless people--people who are victims of circumstance and down on their luck--don't deserve to be warehoused and treated like prisoners, and the current plan is too dense and on too large a scale to address "the humanity of the problem." Another recurrent theme was Rick Scalera's apparent conflict of interest: representing the Fifth Ward, where the proposed facility is to be located, on the Board of Supervisors, while being employed by the Galvan Foundation, whose proposal it is.

In Casey's article, Scalera is quoted as saying of his critics, "They have a real misunderstanding of the situation and any ethical issues it might have. . . . I stay out of the discussions and all negotiations." Elsewhere, Scalera has claimed that as "special adviser" to the Galvan Initiatives Foundation his only job is to to make recommendations for recipients of the grants awarded by the foundation. An incident witnessed last night and reported to Gossips suggests that Scalera's work to promote the interests of Eric Galloway and the Galvan Foundation may go far beyond his published "job description," and although he claims to "stay out of discussions and all negotiations," he engages in behind-the-scenes efforts to influence policy for his employer's benefit.  

At about 6:50 last evening, Scalera was witnessed passing off an envelope to Cappy Pierro at the intersection of Warren and Fifth streets. Later, during the Council meeting, Pierro--Fifth Ward alderman and longtime aide to Scalera in the mayor's office--extracted from that envelope the illustrations used in the latest of his periodic rants against the Historic Preservation Commission for allegedly "holding up" one or another of Galvan's projects. This month's topic was 67-71 North Fifth Street. 


Displaying the renderings of the two faux Greek Revival designs, Pierro claimed that the HPC had "shot down" two perfectly good designs and people on the east side of the street (the Fifth Ward) were complaining about the "delay with the eyesore."


Aldermen Nick Haddad (First Ward) and John Friedman (Third Ward) defended the HPC, explaining that the proposed designs depart from the authentic character of the building and do not relate to the rest of the neighborhood. 

Nevertheless, on cue, Alderman "Doc" Donahue (Fifth Ward) declared: "If historic preservation can't accept these plans, historic preservation should be done away with." Then, as this little routine between Scalera's water bearers typically goes, Pierro protested that he did not want to do away with historic preservation, he just wanted to reduce the HPC's power to an "advisory capacity." Were this to happen, Galloway would have carte blanche to impose his taste and sensibility on Hudson and to destroy willy-nilly its architectural authenticity. 

18 comments:

  1. Its thoroughly dismal to watch the former Mayor burn every last shred of integrity for the machinations of a developer who will only discard him like the cheap facades of his cruddy buildings. The malignant sideshow Alderman Pierro & Alderman Donahue put on last night in their attacks on HPC would have been comical in most any other setting, as it was all too obviously the desperate gyrations of the crony machine on its last leg. Quite a pity these representatives see themselves in Timothy Eric Galloway, whose imperial disregard for civic process is a matter of fact.

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  2. The shame about the Reg-Star article on the meeting last night is that it did not quite convey how thoughtful and productive the discussion was (notwithstanding the Doc Donahue spectacle of stupidity). Many in the audience made it clear that they would support some kind of facility for the homeless, but that the project is out of scale and the proposed partner with the county is unacceptable.

    On Scalera's conflict of interest...he continues to back peddle and change his position. Only weeks ago he declared that he would vote on the shelter. See http://goo.gl/xVBPd. Now he says that not only will be recuse himself, but no he is refraining from discussing the issue. Though anyone who has been to any number of Common Council meetings knows that he has indeed discussed the issue over and over again. Witness Carole's recounting of a recent Economic Development Committee http://goo.gl/AOIhB where he berated Supervisor Sarah Sterling and Council President Don Moore about the issue. He has crossed more ethical lines in the past two months than can even be counted.

    In addition, he has claimed in the past few weeks that all he does for Galvan is decide on which organizations receive grants from the Foundation. Everyone knows that that is far from true. But even if that were true, he doesn't seem to grasp that giving large chunks of money to organizations tied to key elected and appointed officials, who will sit in judgement of Mr. Galloway's projects is completely unethical, whether legal or not.

    He can shout over and over again, point fingers and try to intimidate all he wants. But his actions and words make him an ethical nightmare. The citizens of the 5th Ward deserve better. So do we all.

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  3. I'm sorry to see the discussion about a homeless shelter being played out on the issues of scale and size and architectural merit. I think we ought to take a much harder line against the establishment of any more social welfare facilities in Hudson, period. This town is overflowing with dysfunctional individuals; it makes no sense to give permanent shelter to even more.

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    1. Agreed. The concentration of problematic socioeconomic issues in Hudson - particularly north of Warren Street - should be the primary discussion. Job creation, safety, code enforcement and other quality of life topics are much more important than the well-intentioned(?) but misguided homeless shelter.

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  4. Mr. Scalera states that his only position with the Galvan Foundation is to provide them with advice on grant awards. It is hard to buy that explanation given his presence and outspoken approval of Galvan at public meetings. Two thoughts come to mind: (1) when private money and the public sector come together to make deals that is clearly a conflict of interest when that public servant is employed by the deal maker. Scalera seems confused by the dual roles he has undertaken. His continued association with Galvan is unethical and gives public service a bad name; (2) usually a program officer of a foundation -- and I believe that Galvan has something akin to that in Tom Swope -- makes solid written grant recommendations to a foundation Board of Directors. That program officer is then responsible to follow the progress of each grant to ensure to the Board that grantees meet the intent of the foundation making the grant. Does the Galvan Foundation have a Board or is the foundation an ATM? If Galvan is an ATM that is wonderful news to grantees who won't have to account for what they did with the money. Keep that up and Charity Watch will weigh in if apprised of the situation.

    Going after historic preservation as an impediment to housing the homeless is meant to deflect from the important questions citizens have about Galvan's ever changing plans. A town can treasure and support historic preservation and also do the right thing for the homeless among them. Eric Galloway and his staff have done little in Hudson to make that happen. In fact, they are doing a great deal to create a divide that never would have happened had they sought full community support early on.

    I suggest starting over. There are many other nonprofit housing developers out there who would do a very good job and would not view Hudson as their personal plaything. Consider a rfp to a much wider audience. I'm happy to privately give a list of at least five nonprofit homeless housing developers to Carole to pass on to the appropriate person in Columbia County.

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  5. One other thing regarding Scalera.

    An opinion regarding this issue from the Attorney General's office regarding the need to for an official's requirement to absent himself from the room when issues he has a conflict on are being discussed, reads in part, "the mere presence of the board member holds the potential of influencing fellow board members".

    I venture to say, that loitering on the sidewalk outside of the meeting holds the same potential to influence members as being inside the room.

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  6. A successful city contains all strata of human experience, from the successful to the destitute. We, as a society, have a duty to care for those among us who need assistance. We therefore need to deal with the problems that exist for all Hudsonians, and that includes those here who are or become homeless. That said, the solution we elect to employ has to meet certain basic criteria in my view:

    * It has to be scaled to Hudson's problem as it exists and as it expands and contracts;

    * It can't help some by hurting others. This doesn't mean it won't cost -- it will; but it does mean that the site, size, design and programming have to be sensitive to all the City's residents, not just the homeless or the economic base;

    * It must not EVER become a magnet for homeless from areas outside the County -- we can help the County with some of their homeless (not for free but we can partner) but we must never again permit the industry of poverty to become any kind of economic base for our city.

    In other words, we must be compassionate and realistic.

    As my colleague Abdus Miah would say, "I believe this is true."

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  7. Kate -- I agree: time to start over.

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  8. Conflict of interest? In Hudson? I'm shocked, shocked!!

    -- Jock Spivy

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  9. First of all, Scalera does not serve two masters. He serves only one, himself.

    Second, I am so glad to see that it has been revealed that he is actually paid by the Galvan Init. Foundation. That is sort of like Paula Deen being paid by that big pharma company to hustle its diabetes drug. How'd they get to that point in the first place?

    Scalera is completely out for himself and his cronies. The fact that he is doing the bidding of an African-American gay man with a radical agenda, and handy access to a very deep pocket, is completely hypocritical. Scalera certainly knows that, but he is getting paid, so, whatever.

    I feel like we in Hudson are all living in the 14C/15C, with fire-breathing dragons, damsels in distress, murky moats, scary hangmen, a raging, uncontrollable plague, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse terrorizing our city, in the form of Messrs. Scalera, Swope, Galloway and van Ameringen.

    I'll let others decide who our Joan of Arc is... ;-)

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    1. Observer,

      One of the things I admire about concerned citizens and politicians in Hudson is that they sincerely want to house the homeless while at the same time they want to find a way to integrate the housing into their community that makes sense for Hudson and its neighborhoods. It takes work and community building and it can be done. Mr. Scalera is, in my opinion, acting unethically as an elected official and the fact that Eric Galloway and Henry Van Amerigen pay an elected official to advise them makes me squirm. I, personally, would not want to do business with Galvan if for that reason alone. I question the integrity of that relationship and Galvan's ethics because of it. But to suggest that being gay and/or African American has something to do with noxious behavior throws up smoke screens that have no part in building community. It makes people uncomfortable and angry and takes the eye off the ball. You may not want housing for the homeless in your community and that is fine. But it helps to make a cogent argument why you can't support the housing rather than launching personal attacks. In fact, well thought out arguments from citizens have the opportunity to change people's minds, shift projects in a new direction, craft policy. If you do support housing the homeless but have strong feelings about the principles involved I would hope you will make them without mention of sexual orientation or race. Everyone's voice is important but I find that anyone making personal attacks is rapidly discounted and ignored. By the way, I wouldn't give Galloway et al as much credence as you do in your fourth paragraph.

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  10. Since Camp David is not available maybe a "cooling off period" is best for all involved w/ the multiple issues of Homeless/Galvan/HPC/Scalera etc.

    A possible solution for the Homeless Shelter location.

    Let's consider what Hudson presently has to offer for Homless Housing.
    1. The majority of Government supported housing is located on the North side of Warren (Columbia & State Sts) below 2nd St. & on West Front St.
    2. The Department of Social Services is located in Hudson.
    3. Access to food, clothing, etc, is nearby in Greenport.
    4. Additional services (Medical, Police, Emergency)on a 24/7 basis.
    5. Multiple buildings owned by Galvan in various locations within Hudson w/ the 6th & State St. being offered as the solution.
    Getting back to no. 1 above, is there exisitng housing or land to build a residence for the Homeless people available in the Northwest area of Hudson?

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  11. to John Friedman comment "* It must not EVER become a magnet for homeless from areas outside the County -- we can help the County with some of their homeless (not for free but we can partner) but we must never again permit the industry of poverty to become any kind of economic base for our city."

    I, of course agree that the industry of poverty should never be a base of economy of any city, any jurisdiction.
    But the idea of 'our homeless' and 'their homeless' is repugnant. It dehumanizes people have who no home, as entities we can direct (herd) from one area to across some border.
    Perhaps you can reword or rethink this.

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    1. What is missed here is that people have to apply to their local social service district for emergency shelter. If a person from the Bronx or Buffalo shows up homeless in Hudson the local social services district has to go through machinations to get the money to support a non-County resident. They either have to pay for that person to be housed or prevail upon the person's home district to pay for him or her. As John Friedman notes below there are fiscal issues to consider here. Bronx County is not going to pay Columbia County to house their homeless and Columbia County really doesn't want to take on Monroe County's homeless overflow and pay for it out of their meager budget. Second, it is not good program policy to take someone from the Bronx or Buffalo who hopes to return home if the expectation is that local wrap around services in Hudson are going to prepare that man or woman to return home. I have never heard any suggestion on the part of any County that they have their homeless and their counterparts in other Counties have their homeless. In fact, I have been in many meetings with DSS Commissioners throughout NYS and they are understanding of the mutual burdens they face and work together to find mutual solutions. Each County has a state mandated plan to house the homeless of their County and a corresponding budget. There is no question that some homeless people don't see borders (especially between the Bronx and Westchester for instance) but it can play havoc with County budgets to take all comers.

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  12. Judy, I take your point but respectfully disagree: from the City's (capital "C") standpoint, and from the County's, too, it's imperative that we keep both our humanity and our fiscal wits about us -- we simply can't afford to take care of problems that are not ours and we have more than enough problems of our own. And I'm not equating people with problems but thinking of "homelessness" as a problem, and "developing the waterfront responsibly," "the police and court facilities" and "a new fire truck" as problems, too.

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  13. JS: Local governments are responsible to their own constituents, including those unfortunates who have lost their homes.

    But local, state, and federal governments are not interchangeable units; each has circumscribed responsibilities. Local government, including county, is responsible to its own residents first. That is its raison d'etre and its proper role.

    Perhaps you're envious of Berkshire and the other counties in Massachusetts which have abolished themselves as governments. In those examples, authority previously exercised by counties was then assumed by the state.

    But unless and until Columbia County does the same, the alderman is being a responsible legislator. (TO'C)

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  14. @Kate Stone:

    If I may, I think you missed the nuance of my comment above. I have it on very good authority, that in the past, Mr. Scalera has publicly said unkind things about gay people, and used on one occasion a common epithet in public against a Hudson resident and business owner, which I won't repeat here. Granted, Mr. Scalera may have evolved, as the incident I refer to happened some years ago, though in this century. I find it very odd that Mr. Scalera, a former prison guard, a Caucasian Hudson native, of blue collar origin, would find a highly-educated, African-American, wealthy, gay man as his natural ally. That is where I see hypocrisy on his part. If others don't, fine.

    Please don't use your broad policy wonk brush to imply that everyone in Hudson "seriously" supports housing homeless people. That is patently untrue, and I think there are many out there who would like to reduce government subsidized housing in the City, not increase it.

    You think this is some sort of academic policy debate; it is not---the malefactors have made their scheme personal, and if one has any self-respect, and wants to be effective, then what you term personal attacks do become legitimate tactics in the struggle at hand.

    While I do find your posts to be very thoughtful and reasoned, I'd appreciate it if you could spare me your politically-correct broadsides, or at least, give them a second thought, before submitting them. Thanks.

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    1. Observer,

      I gave your post many second thoughts before responding and I thank you for your post to me. I have never thought everyone in Hudson supports housing the homeless. And in its latest configuration why would they? But I do appreciate people are trying to do the right thing. The right thing may mean no housing for the homeless in Hudson but I hope coming to that conclusion would be well thought out by policy makers and their constituents. I had to smile about your suggestion that I am policy wonk and politically correct. Call my posts long winded and I would definitely agree. As for political correctness -- not so much. I am a conservative/liberal/independent-moderate/libertarian depending on the issue. I can't be pinned down. No bleeding heart here ever, ever, ever but I make it a point to challenge anyone who makes a personal attack on another due to race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. That can either get me into trouble or lead to a deeper discussion with an interesting new friend who doesn't think I am a politically correct loudmouth. I did not mean to offend you. I do believe personal attacks diminish what could otherwise be a good debate. I missed your nuance. Kate

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